Private equity: new price hikes in France and Europe

The Covid effect has not taken on mergers and acquisitions in the unlisted. The purchase price of companies by funds in France has crossed the threshold of 13.4 times the operating profit (Ebitda), according to Bain, well above the European average (12.6 times) and even American (11.4 times). “These are levels of multiples that no one has ever observed, notes Jean-Marc Le Roux, partner of the firm. This surge can be explained by the fact that many companies sold this year in France operate in sectors in high demand, where the multiples are very high, such as software, healthcare and education. “ Evidenced by the disposals of Elsan for 3.3 billion euros (nearly 12 times its Ebitda), Colosseum for 2.3 billion (15 times Ebitda) or even Galileo for 2.2 billion (16.5 times). “However, even in more traditional sectors, such as distribution, the assets sold were of excellent quality and very strong growth, which made it possible to justify a high multiple”, he adds. The significant size of the deals was decisive in this new upturn.

But unlisted SMEs (valued at less than 500 million euros) were no exception to this surge, in France as in the rest of Europe. According to the latest Argos index, their value also broke a new historic record at 11.1 times the Ebitda in the Euro zone at the end of last year, that is to say a turn of multiple more in one quarter. “The renewed optimism linked to the economic recovery, the abundance of cash for buyers, and a concentration of transactions in very highly valued sectors have pulled the multiples up”, also analyzes Louis Godron, partner of Argos Wityu. The surge in the unlisted was also driven by the growth of the stock markets, where a number of buyers are listed, increasing their purchasing power.

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